A new report released by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine reveals some sad news for Americans. We're not #1 anymore folks. In fact, we're dead last, at least in terms of life expectancy among wealthy nations.
Many factors contribute to our lower life expectancy, but the researchers involved have at least one plausible reason, among many, why our life expectancy ranks as the worst among rich countries. Being a curious cat, I wonder what that reason is....
“The prevalence of firearms in the United States looms large as an explanation for higher death rates from violence, suicidal impulses, and accidental shootings,” read the recent study, based on a broad review of mortality and health studies and statistics.Make no mistake, there are other causes for our decline in life expectancy that the researchers point out:
In addition to the impact of gun violence, Americans consume the most calories among peer countries and get involved in more accidents that involve alcohol. The U.S. also suffers higher rates of drug-related deaths, infant mortality and AIDS.But, "They estimated that homicide and suicide together account for about a quarter of the years of life lost for U.S. men compared to those in those peer countries." And guess what weapon is involved in those homicides and suicides by a LARGE majority? Right. Guns.
The report's authors were particularly critical of the availability of guns. 'One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home,' reads the report. 'The statistics are dramatic.'"When you consider the fact that we have the highest gun ownership rates among our peers (89 guns for every 100 Americans), and that we own about 35-50% of all the civilian owned guns In The World, well then it should come as no surprise that we also have a gun death problem as a result.
The United States has about six violent deaths per 100,000 residents, says the report, that also reviewed Canada, Japan, Australia and much of Western Europe. None of the 16 other countries examined in the study came anywhere close to that figure. Finland, which is said to have slightly more than two violent deaths per 100,000 residents, was closest to the US in the table.None of the other countries even came close. I guess we ARE exceptional after all.
Homicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in America for those aged 15-24 and most of those homicides, again, involve guns.
But here's the part that sticks out. Use this information the next time the NRA or any other gun manufacturer supporter says "we don't have a gun problem, we have a violence problem, or a video game problem, or a Hollywood problem":
The researchers said there is little evidence that violent acts occur more frequently in the United States than elsewhere. It's the lethality of those attacks that stands out.(Emphasis mine)
More guns, more death. Pretty simple equation really. We don't seem to be more violent than our peers and yet, more of us die as a result of more guns being available to us when we decide to get violent.
This is not just a moral issue, which alone should be enough for a sane society to realize it has a problem. It's also an economic issue, which should appeal to those "fiscal" conservatives and to anyone who feigns an interest in our nation's economic well-being:
The nation's health disadvantages have economic consequences. They lead to higher costs for consumers and taxpayers as well as a workforce that remains less healthy than that of other high-income countries.Again, there are many factors leading to our declining life expectancy--including poverty, eating habits and our not-so-#1 healthcare system--but I found it interesting that the compilers of this 378 page report thought it necessary to highlight the role guns are playing in our life expectancy decline. We have a problem and it shows. It's time we acted like a civilized society and address our last place standing among our peers.
*note-- To be clear, I was raised in a house full of guns. As a teenager I shot many guns and was given my first rifle at about age 14. As an adult I decided to not posses guns for many reasons. I don't think it's too much to ask that gun owners be limited to single action weapons and that high capacity clips are no longer available to them. If you can't hit what you're trying to hit while hunting with a single action rifle or shotgun, well then I'm of the mind that maybe you should take up something else. Or do some more target practice. But I will not bow down to the illogical viewpoint that for me to live a life where I feel safe and secure, the only way to live is in fear, where I'm expected to pack heat every time I go to the grocery store because that's the only way to live in a civilized culture. That if we just had an armed guard in every classroom well then America will surely be "exceptional." We don't have to live that way. We don't have to live like it's the 1800's and the OK Corral is just a part of life. No civilized (and sane) culture lives that way.